John James Willekes
John James Willekes


John James Willekes

Is a professional Curacao born artist who started playing music at the age of 10. With a great passion to learn and to study music at an early age, he received a scholarship to study and graduated from the Conservatory of Music, Hato Rey, Puerto, Rico, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Cum Laude. John is a recipient of the Curacao Galardon Vitrola award for “Best performing jazz artist 1988, and has produced 7-CD recordings and is today, a versatile solo artist extraordinaire and a master of improvisational jazz saxophone, performing on the sax, clarinet and flute. Best known today as ”JJ Cool, John James is a composer, producer, recording artist and teacher, well versed in all musical styles. Classically and formally trained both in Curacao, the Conservatory of Music Puerto Rico, Manhattan School of Music and under the private tutorship of New York jazz legend, jazz saxophonist, the late, Frank Foster, a previous band leader of the Count Basie Jazz Band. The father of two beloved and special children, Dr. Kaia Willekes-Rosa, MD, and son, John-Malcolm Jabari Willekes, a graduate of Claflin University, S.C., School of Natural Science.

His passion for music continues in every aspect of his life, and his latest performances here in Curacao includes “An Evening of Jazz & Creative Music” concert at NAAM, and regular appearances at Blues @ Avila, both of which are located in Pietermaai. Last year both he and wife, band manager, Mrs. Edna Monifa Willekes-King, launched their (DOJACMC) Development of Jazz and Creative Music project, by introducing to the underserved communities in Curacao, their (3-L) project called: “Look, Listen & Learn”, which are a series of free jazz concerts performed directly in neighborhood community centers or Barios.

The Curacao Creative Jazz Music Ensemble, directed by band leader, JJ Cool, in collaboration with jazz guitarist, composer, arranger and educator, Erwin Prudencia, is comprised of only local professional jazz musicians. They successfully presented their original jazz compositions with performances last year in Sentro di Bario Seru Papaya, and Sentro di Bario Wishi Marchena. The concept objective of the (3-L) concerts are designed to inspire young children from 5 to 15 years old to look and listen to live jazz performances and by this process, they will learn to appreciate high level jazz music in together with their family and friends in their own communities. He strongly believes that this process will awaken their curiosity and help to inspire the truly gifted children to want to study and to play jazz music at an early age.  

 JJ Cool states: “Our children are geniuses, and we are on a music mission to expose our youth to the great art form called jazz, to all children in every community in “Dushi Korsou!”.


SPOTLIGHT ON:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           JAZZ SAXOPHONIST JOHN JAMES WILLEKES

The late 1980s to the late 1990s in Curacao will go down in jazz history as the decade of the “Great Jazz Revival”, which was orchestrated by the talented new breed of Curacao jazz artist both already present on the island as well as the artist returning home from America, Holland and the Caribbean. I refer to them as, “Jazz Baby Boomers”. John James became an integral part of Curacaos’ “Great Jazz Baby Boom Rival”.

What one artist in particular, baby boomer, jazz saxophonist, John James Willekes aka JJ Cool has done for the “Great Jazz Revival” of the 80s & 90s has been legendary and history making for both the local, regional and international jazz community. The leadership and performance skills that are brought to the table became an invaluable asset to the community, which qualifies him without a doubt to be considered as one of several local jazz artists to be considered for the prestigious “Cola Debrot Award” for music, education and culture.

With a God sent, cultivated philanthropist mind set, John James always worked to help solve problems existing in the jazz music world in Curacao. He did so effortlessly and without looking for credit. He made key decisions by taking action and tackling issues because it was not only the right thing to do, but he had the expertise and creative energy and support, to get the job done. John James departed Curacao for a decade to work on personal growth and self-development in his musical career. Before he left Curacao however, he offered the very best of his services and talents to the community and especially for the children.


A decade of John’s outstanding accomplishments in Curacao and abroad for 10-plus years.

  • 1984-Sept., John James arrives from NYC, to Curacao and organizes his first Jazz Concert in Hilton Hotel.
  • 1984-FIM Music School. John was hired immediately as a music educator teaching music theory. Directed by Mr. Errol “El Toro” Colina. John also helped the director with purchasing of musical instruments, equipment and books for the school while he resided in New York City.
  • 1985-UNA (University of the Netherlands Antilles) Classical music concert, featuring Dr. Robert Royer, MD, with John James Willekes, on clarinet, performing music of classical masters such as: Brahms, Mozart and Weber.
  • 1985-Dutch Embassy of Surinam. Participated in Surinam Jazz Festival as band leader with his sextet band Jazz Expression, featuring all Curacao musicians. 
  • 1986-CCC (Cultural Center Curacao) Teaching saxophone, clarinet and flute for children and adults. Director, Mr. Edsel Provance
  • 1986-Department of Kultura (Now, Kas di Kultura Korsou). Under the direction of Mr. Pacheko Domacasse, and later under director Mr. Richenel Ansano, John worked for 15 years as a music researcher together with ethno-musicologist, Mr. Eric La Cruz. The major person providing pertinent research material was master historian and artist, Dr. Elis Juliana.
  • 1986-1989 Jazz Expression. As band leader, he performed with local jazz musicians island wide, in hotels, restaurants, night clubs, and in special events as backup artist for international shows.
  • 1986-(June 6th) UNA (University of the Netherlands Antilles). John returns to the UNA with a first time jazz concert with his band, Jazz Expression, preceded by a jazz lecture given by his wife, event organizer, Mrs. Edna Monifa Willekes-King.
  • 1988-Curacao Jazz Foundation Co-founder. One of the most important contributions that JJW made to local and international jazz scene was becoming the first Curacao performing jazz artist, to become a founding member of the first Curacao Jazz Foundation, CJF, which included, Dr. Rob Delanoy, Jacque Royer and mrs. Edna Monifa Willekes-King.
  • 1988-1990-1st Curacao Caribbean Jazz Festival: John James together with the 3-member CJF successfully launched, the first of its kind, modern day Jazz festivals in Curacao, which included prominent jazz and Latin artist from the Caribbean, Korsou and U.S.A. John also performed as band leader with his group Jazz Expression in both 1988 and in 1989 Curacao Caribbean Jazz Festivals.
  • 1988-Galardon Vitrola Award for Jazz Music. Became the first Curacao jazz artist to receive the prestigious award from AMAK music association presented by President, Feco Gomez.
  • 1988-UNESCO, Drug Prevention CD. Commissioned by UNESCO Curacao, in collaboration with ONCADA, to produce a drug prevention CD, as a musical prevention message for our youth to abstain from drugs, alcohol and crime. 
  • 1988-The first jazz artist/bandleader to perform at the first jazz club in Curacao known as the Blue Note Jazz Club in Mahaai
  • 1988-Radio Hoyer, jazz radio show host for “Jazz-a-tazz”. This show was also hosted by Jacque Royer and Rob de Lanoy, with Monifa as an occasional guest co-host.
  • 1988-Henieken Jazz Concert, Wilhelmina Park. In celebration of Willemstad, inner city and harbor, induction on UNESCO Curacao world heritage list of protected sites around the world.
  • 1989-Barbados Jazz Festival. Band leader. Performed with  band Jazz Expression.
  • 1989-Martinique Jazz Festival, performed as a solo guest artist in festival.
  • 1988-1992-Co-owner of the very first African Arts Shop in Curacao called, the African Queen Arts & Novelties Shop in the Waterfort Boogjes, Punda, with authentic art from several African countries. Managed and directed by, mrs. Edna Monifa Willekes-King.
  • 1992: John James was the 1st local jazz band to perform, when the BLUES@Avila opened.
  • 1995-1997 Creative Sound Music School, Zeelandia. Founder of the school which gave classes to children and adults in saxophone, clarinet, flute, drums, guitar, guitar base, piano and voice lessons. The school also presented live jazz and blues performances on the weekends, which featured a host of talented local singers and musicians. 

NOTE: Tele-Curacao featured John James and his students at Creative Sound on various special programs. Tele-8 also documented John’s career for over ten years.

  • 1996-Gospel Concert “Kanto Acapella”, featuring Rev. Floyd L. King and the “No Name GospelSingers” from Brooklyn, New York, in a two day gospel concert at Holiday Beach Hotel. This concert was a fundraiser for the Creative Sound Music School, directed by John James Willekes. Students from the music school were also featured in the concert.
  • 1996-Andruw Jones Yambo Slam CD. This CD was produced together with Orrin Nahr together with lyrics by Monifa Willekes-King. This original composition CD celebrated Andruw’s victory with the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 World Series. He broke Mickey Mantle’s record by becoming the youngest player to score a double home-run in the World Series games.
  • 1998-Jazzy Eclipse Concert, featuring John James Willekes and the Curacao Jazz Ensemble, at Brionplein, Otrobanda. This concert was held at night, the very same day of the Total Solar Eclipse, Syros130°, which took place at noon, which was a worldwide event which drew thousands of tourists to Curacao to view this once in a lifetime phenomenon. A multitude of tourists also witnessed the concert. The concert also features a host of local special guest performers. John also produced a CD with original compositions about this event entitled: “Jazzy Eclipse in Curacao”.
  • 2000-2012 Atlanta, Georgia. Performances in nightclubs, parks and festivals. 
  • 2002-The100 Black Women’s Organization of Atlanta, “Annual Summer Youth Jazz Concert  Series”. Hired as the project director of the youth jazz project giving music lessons and youth concerts at Clark-Atlanta University, Atlanta, G.A.
  • 2004-Atlanta Jazz Festival. Bandleader of the Earmail Jazz Band.
  • 2005-2007 Music Life Music School, Atlanta G.A., for children and adults. He was the schools’ music educator and teacher for sax, clarinet and flute.
  • 2005-Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, in Birmingham Alabama. Performed as special guest artist and
  • 2005-2007 Music Life Music School, Atlanta G.A., for children and adults. He was the schools’ music educator and teacher for sax, clarinet and flute.
  • 2005-Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, in Birmingham Alabama. Performed as special guest artist and bandleader with his Jazz Band Earmail, during their annual summer jazz community concerts.
  • 2000-2012 Atlanta, Georgia. Producer of various CD recordings of Jazz, R&B, Hip Hop and Gospel music.
  • 2013-2015 Midtown Atlanta Music Organization in Atlanta, Georgia. JJ Cool received recognition as an Atlanta performing artist by displaying his image on their Midtown Atlanta promotional banners throughout the midtown district.
  • 2014-Freewinds Charity Jazz Concert; John James was a specially invited feature artist, commissioned to perform on the Freewinds Cruise Ship with the Freewinds Jazz band.
  • 2014-“An Evening of Jazz and Creative Music” at NAAM, Pietermaai as bandleader featuring Curacao musicians with special guest artists.
  • 2014-Sentro di Bario Seru Papaya. JJ Cool introduced the first of its kind in Curacao Jazz Concert for children called The (3-L) “Look, Listen and Learn”, for children ages 5 to15 years old.
  • 2014-Sentro di Bario Wishi Marchena. JJ Cool presented his (3-L), “Look, Listen and Learn” project for their Dia di Bario. NOTE: Both the Evening of Jazz and Creative Music Concert, as well as both (3-L) “Look, Listen & Learn” concerts, were produced in collaboration with distinguished Curacao jazz guitarist, composer, arranger and educator, Mr. Erwin Prudencia. All of these cultural events were made possible via private sponsorship.
  • 2014-Annual Holiday Luncheon at SEHOS Children Department, in conjunction with the Ronald McDonald’s Charities Foundation. JJ Cool performed as a solo artist presenting classic Christmas holiday music for the children, their parents and the Sehos staff.
  • 2014-JJ Cool, continues to improve the concepts in his 3-L”Look, Listen & Learn” project to be presented in the coming months this year, while he performing in various venues as a guest artist, and at Blues@Avila Hotel.
  • 2015-2018: 3lc”Look, Listen & Learn” free jazz concerts for children concerts were presented in    additional communities which includes: SDB Montana, SDB Brivengot, SDB Bonam, SDB Otrobanda,               SDB West Punt and Curacao Children’s Museum.
  • 2017- University of Curacao: Jazz Concert by JJ COOL and Jazz lecture by mrs. Edna Monifa Willekes-King.
  • 2017-NAAM: International Jazz Day. JJ COOL Jazz Concert & lecture organized by DOJACMC Foundation.
  • 2017-2019: Curacao Ports Authority: Local performing artist for the cruise ship tourist industry.
  • 2018-Curacao Children’s Museum: 3LC “Look, Listen & Learn” concert by JJ COOL Jazz band.
  • 2019-international Jazz Day: Punda Vibes. JJ COOL & the COOL Jazz Experience. Organized by DOJACMC Foundation 





JJ Cool, appears as a guest soloist and arranger on dozens of recordings by Curacao recording artist. His own recording career includes 7-CDs that were produced both in Curacao and in Atlanta, Georgia. The CD Collection of John James Willekes are:

  • Andruw Jones “Yambo Slam”
  • Children Are Our Future
  • Jazzy Eclipse in Curacao
  • Earmail “Live for Today”
  • Sax and Keys
  • John James Willekes “Christmas Classics”
  • “An Evening With You”